Smart Interactions

Smart Interactions is a research cluster at the School of Design Innovation which combines expertise from multiple design and technology disciplines.

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This research cluster represents a synergy of existing expertise in the School of Design Innovation along with strategic research partners: combining Media Design (MDDN), Industrial Design (IDDN), Software Engineering (SWEN) and Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE) to pursue the use of innovative sensors in interaction design/engineering and create physical products that are supported by digital systems in order to pioneer new experimental digital solutions.

This is a cluster that fosters genuine collaborative organisational research that engages with the external community and industry and aims to produce innovative design solutions for these external stakeholders. It will generate outputs in the form of traditional academic publications and design artefacts which include intellectual property that has commercial potential.

Smart Interactions is affiliated with the research activities of the New Zealand Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (MedTechCoRE) coordinating Technology Platform 4: Design and Manufacturing.

Research aims and objectives


  1. To investigate human needs and desires, initially focused to healthcare and safety, that can be addressed through smart interactions
  2. To develop systems that sense relevant human and environmental data to address 1.
  3. To investigate media to digitally process and analyse data gathered through 2.
  4. To design, experiment and define what interactions would be appropriate for addressing the human needs and desires defined in 1.
  5. To explore designs of smart interactions in a wider user experience context.


The research objectives will address the above aims as follows:

  1. To define research-based, healthcare and safety related, human needs and desires that can be addressed through smart interactions and that are relevant to the contexts of our industry partners.
  2. To conduct primary research into a variety of soft sensors that would empower a series of smart devices.
  3. To conduct collaborative research with engineering on different methods of digitally collecting, processing and analysing data gathered from sensors.
  4. To conduct a combination of iterative design experiments that is informed by traditional qualitative user research to design and test engagement and efficiency of different interactions in our current focus area—physical rehabilitation.
  5. To create experimental sensor-enabled interactions for alternative user experiences from musical instruments to performances that can inform on the more applied focus area.

Postgraduate learning objectives

  • Investigate and define human needs and desires from cultural, emotional, behavioural, and cognitive perspectives.
  • Define a design brief based on identified human needs and desires.
  • Experiment with sensors to gather human and environmental data relevant to the design brief.
  • Experiment with and produce code that processes gathered data in relevant ways.
  • Design and produce physical or digital interactions that appropriately communicate relevant data to the person.
  • Test proposed designs and prototypes in real contexts.


Wearable technology for HCI

Wearable technology for human-computer interaction (HCI) looks at the design opportunities for creating new and/or experimental HCI devices that helps us use existing physical gestures that we already do consciously and unconsciously day-to-day and extrapolate them to create useful and intuitive interfaces for our devices. Ideally this project will then expand on the proposed devices to explore their potential for health-related purposes.

This project will explore an idealised system of digitally manufactured customised wearable technology that are designed around a user. However, there are still areas to investigate, particularly in the area of reliable embedded sensors, customised, low-scale prototype production, application design, and new HCI gesture efficacy.

Smart interactions for medical technologies

This project is an open call for exploratory or speculative medical technology that incorporates physical products in combination with digital technology. Our preferred themes currently revolve around empowered physical rehabilitation, medical compliance, and behaviour change around healthy habits.


  • Im Able
  • Crown Research
  • Swibo


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Edgar Rodriguez-ramirez

School of Design Innovation

Lecturer in Media Design, Interaction Design
School of Design Innovation